Was Mother Teresa a Fraud?
MOTHER TERESA (while being filmed in a television interview speaking to one of her “patients”): “You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.”
CALCUTTA CANCER PATIENT (suffering unbearable pain from being terminal ill and given no painkillers): “Then please tell him to stop kissing me.”
Few pronouncements are more blasphemous than alleging Mother Teresa was a fraud.
The saintly Roman Catholic nun became universally revered and bountifully adulated for her lifelong work as a missionary, presumably performing charitable acts on behalf of the deathly ill and devastatingly poor in the slums of Calcutta, India. Later, her activities spread elsewhere through a global religious network known as Missionaries of Charity, with current operations in 133 countries. The only requirements for receiving care included adhering to “the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.” Even prior to her death in 1997, Mother Teresa came to personify the very essence of holiness. But how much of the myth surrounding one of our most sacred of icons is really true?
Born in Albania as Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, Mother Teresa was known for her ceaseless acts of charity, compassion, personal sacrifices, and deep religious faith — which she admittedly questioned at times. Even her critics had to admire certain qualities in Mother Teresa. If nothing else, she was likely motivated by convictions she was doing the lord’s work and truly believed she was having a profoundly positive impact on all those whose lives she touched.
However, when we examine Mother Teresa’s actual deeds, practices, and beliefs — as well as consider the darker confessions of credible witnesses who saw what happened once the television cameras were turned off and press conferences were finished, a much more disturbing portrait emerges. One former nun who worked closely with her organization described the Missionaries of Charity as a “cult of suffering.” Were she alive today, Mother Teresa probably wouldn’t deny this accusation. Human suffering was indeed a virtue, she believed. Her words are a matter of record. She went so far as to insist suffering brought believers “closer to god,” which oddly enough was the same kooky freak show of faith practiced by the Flagellants Movement during the Dark Ages, when its devotees openly whipped themselves with chains in the streets as a proof of penance.
While often credited as a health care provider and even a social worker, her clinic in one of the poorest districts of Calcutta was anything but a medical facility. In fact, it was a terrible sideshow of human suffering intentionally designed and widely publicized to maintain the flow of financial donations from all over. The ill and maimed, often lying on their deathbeds enduring indescribable pain, were essentially props, wheeled out to posture for countless photo ops, the gawking global press, and various international humanitarian delegations which became de facto co-conspirators in what amounted to gross duplicity.
No one denies the suffering were given virtually no medical care whatsoever at clinics run by Mother Teresa, aside from bowls of watered-down soup and the occasional aspirin (this is widely documented). She even insisted on numerous occasions that her role wasn’t at all medical, but spiritual. Just as peculiar, the terminally ill — mostly cancer patients enduring the ghastly agony of their final days and hours — were confined 24-hours-a-day to a flimsy loincloth laid out on a dusty concrete floor, waiting to die — that mind-boggling monotony interrupted by occasional bathroom breaks in a filthy pit which doubled as a lavatory. All the sick were denied visitors — inexplicably even from family and close friends. Mother Teresa’s isolation chamber became death’s dirty waiting room. One eyewitness described the scene as follows:
The hospice in Calcutta through which Mother Teresa gained such wide recognition is very small (80 beds) and provides little medical care. Needles are reused, all patients are forced to have their heads shaven, visitors are forbidden and painkillers are rarely if ever used. The nurses do not speak the language of the people and are not usually involved in the care of the patients. This duty is assumed by volunteers. [SOURCE HERE]
Interestingly, this fidelity to misery and suffering didn’t extend to Mother Teresa herself. While the poor were refused inexpensive painkillers that might have provided reprieve by the thousands, inching “closer to god” according to Teresa’s belief system, the world’s most famous nun received numerous treatments on her own in highly-exclusive, ridiculously expensive health care facilities and hospitals from the best doctors in their fields.
Mother Teresa was just as much a mega-celebrity as a religious figure, especially during her later years. She traveled around the world, always first class, of course, receiving more than 150 prestigious awards from governments and highly-respected institutions for her saintly sacrifices. Her high point of recognition came in 1979, when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Estimates vary as to how much money Mother Teresa raised. One credible estimate has the figure at $100 million. Yet, what limited auditing does exist (her books, as well as the Catholic Church’s remain a closely-guarded secret) reveals that less than 10 percent of all funds collected were used to directly aid, comfort, and treat the sick and poor. Some have documented that this number might have been as low as 7 percent, giving some of the worst-run charitable scams in America a real run for their money. Instead, most of the money collected by Teresa went to construct and eventually staff more churches and religious services, thus empowering the Catholic Church even more so — hardly the noble intent of those who were willingly so generous with their checkbooks.
In what amounts to a devastating indictment of Mother Teresa’s numerous misappropriations, lies, and contractions, in “Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict,” Indian author and researcher Aroup Chatterjee tirelessly chronicles the perpetual misuse of donations for church expenses — even to the point where critics of the book point out he could have left out “too much documentation.” [LINK HERE] Ambulances that were donated to be used for transporting the sick and lame were instead used to shuttle religious authorities between facilities and services. She grossly overstated how many poor were fed in her so-called “soup kitchens,” by as much as a factor of 30 (she claimed 9,000 a day, when the actual number was probably closer to 300). Actually, in most instances the poor receiving help were given food cards. Sure, that’s nice and all — but it’s hardly consistent with what was actually spent promoting religious faith. If nothing else, those who donated deserved the truth.
As if this isn’t enough to raise serious doubts as to her proposed canonization by the Vatican, the grotesque belief systems seeded by Mother Teresa amount to crimes against all humanity. This incendiary charge requires evidence, so I’ll provide it. A vociferous opponent of reproductive rights for women, including abortion, her views were (and remain) entirely consistent with the official edicts of her church. Hundreds of millions of believers, not only Catholics, share these beliefs. Hence, it’s with regret one must admit her views are quite mainstream.
Yet, her countless crusades against even legal methods of contraception were disastrous on a mass scale. Her twisted advocacy of denial directly and indirectly wrecked innumerable lives on multiple continents — most notably Asia and Africa. In her own preposterously overcrowded nation of India, where food, water, and natural resources have already become scarce for a majority, and where the national population is forecast to explode over the next two decades to the point where India shall surpass China in overall numbers, Mother Teresa vociferously opposed all methods of birth control. This criminality is far worse than mere religious zealotry. We’re talking about tens of millions of unplanned and unwanted births in the world’s most impoverished nations being tossed into a permanent dungeon of depravity. That’s criminal.
No humanitarian, Mother Teresa also coddled ruthless dictators so long as they served her aims, most repulsively Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who oppressed the Haitian people for nearly two decades. The late writer and protagonist Christopher Hitchens made these points in his scathing book on Mother Teresa, “The Missionary Position,” which created a furor when released in 1996. [LINK HERE] Not quite as extensively documented and therefore not as convincing as Aroup Chatterjee’s master work released seven years later, since Chatterjee had the clear advantage of actually being from Calcutta and therefore was able to speak firsthand as to the disconnect between image and reality, Hitchens pulled back no punches in his narrative. A master of evisceration, he once told an audience of Catholics gathered at Notre Dame University, “She’s a fraud, a fanatic and a fundamentalist.” That’s pretty clear and quite damning, even coming from one of history’s most avowed anti-theists.
Now, there’s a new documentary coming out (which I plan to see) called “The Letters.” True to its title, this film and historical re-enactment is mostly based on a collection of personal letters written by Mother Teresa during the course of her life (Note: For those who reside in Las Vegas, it’s now playing at Village Square). One suspects this film, and the vast empire of devotees blindly willing to protect and defend her shaky reputation, particularly among academics, will do everything in their powers to maintain the cult of personality.
Before his passing, Hitchens provided us with the following brief summation on Mother Teresa’s life and legacy, which bears some reflection in contrast to the monochrome of adulation:
“I would say it’s a certainty that millions of people died because of her work,” Hitchens said. “And millions more were made poorer, stupider, more sick, more diseased, more fearful, and more ignorant.”
Here’s his BBC production (Part 1 of 3), titled “Hell’s Angel.”